When I first moved to England I often wondered why you’d see bricked-up windows around the place. Were there light-fearing hermits living there? Did someone just get sick of cleaning their windows? The ones pictured here can be seen on Landsdowne Drive, next to London Fields, and I now know they are because a window tax that was introduced in 1696. This was an early form of income tax, because back then the idea of the government taxing, or even monitoring, people’s actual income was unthinkably meddlesome (imagine!).
Anyone with a window had to cough up, and the more windows you had the more you paid. Predictably, in an seventeenth-century example of blinging it up, some people flaunted their wealth by installing more windows than they actually needed. And those who wanted to avoid the tax simply bricked up their windows. This is also where the phrase daylight robbery is thought to originate.